Above: Rob Natelson during one of his many return trips to Montana.
Listen to the author reading this column here.
Some in the national mainstream media are suggesting that the Montana legislature punished a transgender state representative for being transgender. That is a fabrication. Indeed, another “nonbinary” lawmaker has participated fully in the proceedings this year without incident.
Once again, the media crafted their narrative without bothering to investigate. The truth is that the representative in question has repeatedly broken house rules. The episode that triggered the discipline included hateful comments on the house floor for which he refused to apologize. The discipline stopped short of expulsion; the lawmaker may still participate in debates via Zoom.
“Zooey Zephyr”—whose real name is Zachary Raasch—represents House District 100. That’s the farthest left district in the farthest left city in the state. Raasch apparently has a long history of bizarre conduct. The most recent examples include his insulting remarks on the house floor and apparent coordination o f mass disruption of the legislative process. That disruption included chants from the galleries, throwing objects to the house floor, trying to use a light to blind a lawmaker, and rhythmic pounding on the chamber doors.
At this link is an eyewitness account of what happened. Another useful corrective to the media narrative is an op-ed penned by Jeremy Carl, a Senior Fellow at California’s Claremont Institute. I’ve provided a copy here (pdf).
A short video issued by the legislature’s freedom caucus also provides useful information. You can see it here.
Montana used to be a fairly liberal state on regulatory and fiscal issues—the result of labor union power and an outsize-government sector. But liberal policies resulted in repeated budget deficits followed by repeated tax hikes followed by more budget deficits. These policies also ruined the state economy: At one point when I lived there (1987-2011) the state ranked 50th among states in average salary.
But during the 1990s and early 2000s, thousands of dedicated Montanans (and I among them) worked to make government more frugal and responsible. We followed all the rules, and we won. Montana is now freer and more prosperous—and state government enjoys a massive budget surplus.
Extremists like Zephyr want to reverse that progress—not by following the rules, but by breaking them. Montanans need to stand strong to make sure that doesn’t happen, and those of us who live in other states should encourage them.